Most Journalists Covering Immigration Are White, Study Says

PHOTO: At U.S. newspapers, most front page stories are written by whites, a new study finds.Flickr/VictoriaPeckham
At U.S. newspapers, most front page stories are written by whites, a new study finds.

There's a striking lack of diversity in reporters who write front page articles at top print newspapers, according to a new study conducted by the 4th Estate. The study found that when it comes to immigration, a topic that disproportionately affects the Hispanic community, 95 percent of journalists who wrote stories about the issue are white, non-Hispanics and less than four percent are Hispanic.

According to the media watchdog site, the study includes article data from 38 print media companies between the dates of January 1 to October 12 of this year. Ninety three percent of all articles the organization examined were written by white reporters.

The study found that even papers that serve large Latino populations have few Latino authors on their front page stories. Only 6 percent of Miami Herald front page stories, for example, had Hispanic authors, and zero percent of Los Angeles Times front page stories had Hispanic authors. However, according to a 2012 survey of print organizations by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), Hispanic journalists constitute about 27 percent of The Miami Herald's newsroom and 8 percent of the L.A. Times newsroom. The population of Miami and Los Angeles County are about half Latino, according to the Census bureau. The study did not survey web publications.

On Thursday, the 4th Estate released data which depicted the diversity problems at papers like the Miami Herald with significantly starker numbers (reporting that zero percent of their front page writers are Latino, for example). On Friday, a new set of data was released to correct the numerous errors in the prior infographic. Michael Howe, the co-founder of The 4th Estate, wrote in an email that overall, the finding that 93 percent of articles measured are written by white reporters, remains accurate.

Also, determining the race and ethnicity of each journalist for the survey seems to also be a difficult task. The infographic indicates that racial and ethnic backgrounds were determined by publically available information and when researchers were "clearly unable to determine the ethnicity of a certain journalist, [they] excluded their articles from the dataset." Because many individuals don't include such information online, and do not have names or skin tones which are typically associated with their background, this may not be as accurate, as say, asking individuals how they self-identify. Howe defended the methodology, noting in an email that researchers did "a deep public record dive" for each journalist, and that the process of ethnic identification was "not automated." He noted that researchers combed through Twitter, Facebook, and everything else they could find online. If any doubt remained, they were classified as a member of a minority group.

"Admittedly, race is a tricky issue -- especially here in the U.S," Howe wrote.

This is not the first time lack of diversitiy at major media outlets has come under scrutiny. Earlier this month, four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa doubted how diverse newsrooms that still use the word "illegal immigrant" could be.

"On the issue of style, I want to know who is in the style meetings and how diverse those meetings are," NPR's Hinojosa said on MSNBC's Sunday morning show "Up with Chris Hayes". "Because with the demographic change that is occurring in our country that diversity in the media must occur."

According the 4th Estate study, less than one percent of The New York Times front page stories are written by Hispanics, even though nearly one third of the city is Hispanic. The media outlet still uses the term.

Charlie Garcia, a contributor at CNN, Fox News, and The Huffington Post made a similar accuastion about the Associated Press and their decision to use "illegal immigrant."

"The AP is the main problem on this issue, because everybody uses them as an excuse. And on their board of 19, how many are Latinos?," Garcia asked in an interview with ABC/Univision. "Zero. Zero are Latino. Zero." The AP did not respond to a request to confirm this number.